March & April Gardening Tips
Each month, there’s so much that could be done in the garden that it’s hard to know what must be done. So I’ve broken the March & April gardening tasks into three categories. If you only have time for a few things, focus on the ‘Must Do’ tasks. Add in the ‘Should Do’ and ‘Nice to Do’ tasks as time allows.
Note: The March & April gardening tasks described here are for gardeners in zone 6. Tasks may be done earlier, or later, if you live in warmer or colder areas. I’ll be adding more information over time showing tasks in other areas of the country.
- Clean up the garden – Ideally, you’ll have done this in March but, if not, April’s the time to get it done. Rake out and collect all unwanted debris – dead leaves, stems, old mulch, dried flower heads – anything that’s not going to grow this year and won’t be used to create an organic layer in the garden. Dispose of this debris in the trash – do not compost it as it could be harboring diseases and insect eggs.
- Cut back perennials – Many gardeners leave stems standing throughout the winter to create interest in the garden. Cut them back now.
- Prune back woody perennials – Perennials with a woody structure, such as butterfly bush, caryopteris, lavender, Russian sage, and Montauk daisies, should be pruned back once new growth appears. Butterfly bush should be cut back to nearly ground level as it will easily grow 6 feet or more in a single season (note that it’s considered invasive in some areas).
- Remove mulch – As new growth appears, gently pull back mulch to uncover emerging plants.
- Cut down ornamental grasses – Keep grasses looking good by cutting them down to nearly ground level before they start to sprout (don’t cut too low or you’ll damage the plant – don’t cut too high or the plant will look like it’s wearing a straw skirt). Pruners will work on smaller grasses, hedge trimmers work well on larger ones, and for those in-between a sickle is a good option. For fescue, just rake your hands through the plant to remove dead foliage – don’t cut it back.
- Weed, weed, weed – Everyone’s least favorite task is a definite must-do in early spring – whatever doesn’t get removed now will turn into a vigorous and unwanted focal point in your summer garden! Check out our article on the Best Tools for Weeding.
- Divide and transplant perennials – March and April are the best time of year to divide and transplant perennials. Just about any plant will respond well to being dug up and moved (unless it has a tap root) but not all plants can be divided.
- Stake or support plants – It’s easiest to put in supports before the plants leaf out. Stakes, hoops, rings, trellises, etc., should all be in place by the end of April.
- Prevent crabgrass – If you use a pre-emergent herbicide on your lawn, now is the time to apply a crabgrass prevention mix. For organic gardeners, corn gluten is an option although it generally takes several years of regular application to be effective.
- Provide frost protection – A late frost can kill tender plants and new growth. If a freeze or frost is expected, cover plants with an old sheet or tablecloth or, better yet, a Planket Frost Protection Cover [Read the Review Here].
Nice to Do
- Fertilize roses – About a cup of balanced fertilizer scratched in around the drip line will work wonders. I like Espoma’s organic Rose Tone and Mills Magic Rose Mix.
- Plant hardy annuals – April is the perfect time to plant pansies, snapdragons, dianthus, dusty miller, and other cold weather annuals.
- Sow seeds – Direct sow (in the garden) seeds for hardy annuals and cooler season vegetables, like carrots and lettuce.